Posted by ron cole on November 18, 2012 at 10:15 PM in devotional reflection, faith, gobal community, jesus, mystery, postmodernity, progressive christianity | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Poetry, parables are acts of imagination that offer and purpose "alternative worlds" because they are open, door ways to infinite possibilities. Can imagination be indeed a legitimate way of knowing?
Numbness does not hurt like torture, but in a profound insidious way, numbness robs us of our humanity, and makes us infinitely smaller. It is taking an eraser and removing the God-image in those who do not fit. Has our imagination been claimed by false lenses of perception and idolatrous theology that we protect and defend as absolute “truth?”
Are spiritual nomads, navigating a changing landscape and taking seriously, the shaping of their own field of perception and language of understanding? When we become so at home in a belief system, do we become oblivious to the points of contact in our neighborhoods, in culture, in technology, and art...do we drift and drown in an ocean of irrelevance?
The dominant partisan religious culture, now and in every time, is grossly uncritical, cannot tolerate serious and fundamental criticism, and will go to great lengths to stop it.
Jesus dismantled the religion of static triumphalism by exposing their gods and showing God was profoundly more mysterious than their “truth.” Jesus dismantles the religion of oppression and exploitation by countering it with the profound mysterious reality of “truth” being God’s infinite love.
When we leave our theology unexamined and unquestioned, we end up being slaves to it. When believe in our theology at what ever the cost...do we end up suffocating the redemptive imagination of Jesus?
William Blake called imagination, " the body of God ".
The Garden of Love
I laid me down upon a bank,
Where Love lay sleeping;
I heard among the rushes dank
Then I went to the heath and the wild,
To the thistles and thorns of the waste;
And they told me how they were beguiled,
Driven out, and compelled to the chaste.
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut
And 'Thou shalt not,' writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.
There is no rituals, no doctrine, no theology...just one command, " Don't eat of the tree of knowledge." They are tempted...and they eat. This is what Augustine mused as the " orginal sin." I wonder if we still aren't sinning then?
The Old Testament seems nothing more than humanity's wreckless pursuit of religion. We delude ourselves in thinking religion was God's idea. We wanted laws, rules and commandments to keep...and when we failed we wanted ammendments to the laws. This was so far from the intimacy in the garden of Eden. But we were hoplessly hooked...it was always just one more chance and we'll get it right. We never did...and we never will.
As many times as I have read the gospels...I never come away with an image of a religious Jesus. I come away with my imagination ignited of a God who doesn't occupy a church, but a God who walks in the midst of his creation...as a friend. There are no barriers, no rituals, no confession of beliefs are needed to abide with this profound mysyerious God, who Jesus called, " Love."
I wonder if Jesus in the profound mysterious redemptive imagination he lived and spoke...if he didn't envision a new creation like the Garden of Eden...where it wasn't so much religion, but more life. Or as William Blake called it, " the body or God...and the existence of humanity ", as one...God again walking in the midst of his creation. Man and God, walking and talking as friends.I wonder?
Posted by ron cole on November 17, 2012 at 02:37 AM in culture, devotional reflection, easter, emerging church, faith, jesus, mystery, philosophy, postmodernity, progressive christianity, spirituality, theology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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( Hopefully after reading my musing...you'll get the imagination in my food art )
Yesterday I had this thought in my mind tumbling around like laundry stuck in the spin cycle. I just couldn't seem to open the door and get it out. It was this thought ; the " fatality " of truth. It 's truth that is in the quality or state of causing death or destruction, or truth that is in the condition of being destined for disaster.
A lot of so called religious truth is like that, truth that has been carved out in stone, that has become indelible that we some how determine is eternal. Or we are inspired by spirituality, or by some infinite consciousness to write what we determine is code for the OS of life. Our religious tribe determines it as the truth for "all" to obey. We use it as a weapon to confront others, and the deepest concern, we use it to construct an illusion of our own little world.
If anything, this kind of truth is lifeless. And this is the truth that Jesus seems to confront so often in the Gospels. So often we see Jesus in a heated conversation with the religious folk of his day saying, "You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!"
It is Jesus confronting the " fatality " of religious truth.
We keep forgetting above all that Jesus was the profound revelation of God...but he was also the deepest mysterious revelation of what it is to be abundantly human. He took the religious truth in the context of his culture, society and in the corridor of human history challenged it with his "living" truth.
Left to their own devices and passions, religious folk have a hard time seeing beyond their fences into the world. While the issue of slavery and its grotesque inhumanity seem obvious to us now, it was not so obvious to slave owners then who argued—from scripture, no less—that slavery was a part of God’s plan. . Rather than being “fatal " to religious truth, it seems to me that these changes have argued for a more true following of Jesus' "living" truth for us than past understandings of the faith have allowed. Faith is a dynamic and ever-changing process, not some fixed body of truth that exists outside our world and our understanding. The "fatality" of religious truth may seem to be fixed and unchanging, but our comprehension of that truth will always be challenged in the midst of an ever changing human landscape. Over time, hopefully, we will continue to wrestle with the "fatality" of religious truth.
We must learn to read between the lines of religious truth, maybe the empty space between lines is pause to reflect to wrestle deeply with its understanding in the midst of our cultural diversity, our pluralistic landscape...and in the footsteps of where we are down the corridor of history.
Probably the most deadly and destructive "fatal" truth of our day continues to be...that Jesus doesn't accept the LGBT community. The "fatality" or religious truth may seem support that. I would challenge that assumption with the profound redemptive imagination of Jesus' "living" truth. I think Jesus would challenge any truth that marginalizes, isolates...and destroys the human experience of any life. I imagine Jesus in our midst today, in the midst of our stone throwing, our dehumanizing assault, saying, " You have heard what the law says, but, this is what I say..."
Jesus has given us the example of what it is to be profoundly human by confronting the "fatality" of religious truth...with "living" truth...life giving truth as he lived.
And Ironically having coffee this evening, I'm reading Acts 15...it's what I'm sure was a chaotic angry debate in Jerusalem. It was the decision to let the Gentiles ( the people that still had that wobbly bit on their weenies ) become Christians. You talk about the " fatality " of religious truth...as long as folks could remember God only accepted people who had been "nipped." I can only imagine how wild this scene must have been. And then, out of the conversation Peter says something profound, bringing a hush over the crowd...
"And God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him."
“So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too?"
Absolutely, stunning redemptive imagination...the "living" truth of Jesus transforming the "fatality" of religious truth.
Who says the LGBT community can't have the Spirit of God? Who says they can't live their lives as Jesus did? But, the most important, why are we so intent on trying to "out-god God"?
We can continue to grasp the "fatality" of our religious truths...the weather beaten etched in stone truth, the " wobbly bits ' of truth and continue dehumanize people made in God's image...and reduce the abundant life of humanity to a mere trickle. Or we can redeem life profoundly with Jesus living truth by say, " the law, our theology says, our doctrines say...but this is what we say."
Posted by ron cole on November 06, 2012 at 08:01 AM in emerging church, faith, human sexuality, jesus, mystery, philosophy, postmodernity, progressive christianity, theology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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"We have longed to taste the resurrection... the insurrection of life... We have longed to welcome its thunders and quakes, and to echo its great gifts. We want to test the resurrection in our bones. We want to see if we might live in hope instead of in the ... twilight thicket of cultural despair in which ... many are lost." - Daniel Berrigan, priest and radical peace activist.
Faith should be filled with redemptive imagination we need to envision the reality of the resurrection " now ", for out the the resurrection comes the inauguration, the revelation and the building of the Kingdom Jesus imagined, and lived in.
There was nothing special about the parking lot behind the Capitol Six Theater, and the transition to the Traveller's Inn. What was special was that a few people took likely what they thought was a mustard seed of faith and planted it. They nurtured it, cultivated, prayed and loved and it grew. There was a vow of commitment, of faithfulness, that despite cold, rain, wind they would be there. The same time, same day, week after week, year after year.
There was a profound evolution of borders and boundaries being erased. What was once "us " and " them " became a community of friends. It became an anticipation and expectation of watching, and looking for the arrival of friends. It was hugs, it was conversations and prayer. It was the worry of wondering about someone if they failed to show up on Friday...to now Sunday.
It was a circle of friends, holding hands, it was faces, it was eyes and smiles. It was improvisation of a God talk, a few minute sermon that sparked imagination. It was communion with the street community distributing the sacraments. It was the parable of the feast, the servant with invitations in hand going to the back allies, the gutters, skid row hotels, anywhere and everywhere so his Fathers table would be full.
It was hot chocolate, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, baked goods, cookies, fruit, socks, mitts, toques, blankets, sleeping bags, shoes, under-ware, clothing. It was, I was naked and you clothed me, I was hungry and you fed me. It was whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.
" What is this ", the young man kept saying to me." I've never seen anything like this." I really believe it was the reality of the resurrection, the " now " presence of Jesus risen in the midst of a community living out radical scandalous faith. He caught a glimpse of the Kingdom now. He saw people acting as co-creators in the revelation and building of Jesus' Kingdom. He saw a place with out borders, boundaries...a place where people aren't reduced to labels and stereotypes. He saw radical hospitality, grace, and mercy. In his " lostness " he felt the loneliness and separation of the prodigal son. But, more, he saw God in that parking lot with open arms welcoming him home. My son which was once lost, is now found.
For me CARTS has become a wild and crazy church. We long to feel the resurrection in our bones.We long for the Kingdom. We long, and welcome its thunder and quakes, and to echo its great gifts. The Kingdom coming into being can seem messy and chaotic. But as someone once said, at the Rainbow Kitchen...even in chaos there is beauty yet to be recognized, if we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear.
Practice resurrection in your daily life...simply let your life be your religion.
Posted by ron cole on September 06, 2012 at 03:25 PM in community, culture, Current Affairs, devotional reflection, emerging church, faith, jesus, kingdom, missional church, postmodernity, poverty, progressive christianity, theology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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I am told, that Jesus only directly answers 3 of the 183 questions that he himself is asked in the four Gospels! This is totally surprising to me who has grown up assuming that the very job description of religion is to give people answers and to resolve people’s dilemmas. Apparently this is not Jesus’ understanding of the function of religion because he operates very differently.
Jesus’ questions are to re-position you, make you own your unconscious biases, break you out of your dualistic mind, challenge your image of God or the world, and present new creative and redemptive possibilities. He himself does not usually wait for or expect specific answers. He hopes to tweak, or ignite a person’s imagination.
Reading the gospels moves you into this profound liminal space. Some people call it the ” slippery slope “, but maybe it is more circumventing obstacles around struggling with truth and suddenly loosing your footing. In reading the gospels you come to the reality what once made sense no longer does. What caused the fall might have been that for years, and years there was only one way to look at something. But, in your pursuit for something deeper you started looking at the obstacle from different angles…and you slipped.
And you thought, Sh……..it! now I’ve done it, I’ve lost my faith. All the questions like lightning begin to strike you from all angles. How long will this free fall last ? Will I land on anything solid?
Christianity for years has been about ” orthodoxy “, right belief. You read the gospels and you can’t miss the only thing Jesus was orthodox about was living. It wasn’t really ” what ” to believe it was ” how ” to believe. And today more and more people don’t really care about ” what ” you need to believe…they want to know how. After we let go of the ” what “, we are left with the ” how.” We grab the profound mysterious ” how ” and throw it into the midst of life. There its, ” how do I believe?” How did I ever believe that? ” How does believing this change the world around me?
It is the ” how ” of belief, that is more about ” orthopraxy ” the right practice of belief…Or simply how do I live like Jesus, and believe in the things he believed in. “How”, is a question that is far more profound and far more life giving than ” what .” ” How “, implies a sense of purpose and pushes us into a deeper engagement with the world in which we live. Diana Butler Bass says, ” What is a conventional religious question, one of dogma and doctrine; how is an emerging spiritual question, one of experience and connection.” How is the struggle of a new way to belief.
You read the gospels and you simply see, it becomes blindingly clear Jesus doesn’t fight for anyone to believe anything. All through the gospels it is Jesus telling profound redemptive stories, acting out the drama of abundant living in the midst of a broken world. Jesus simply fights for us to ” live ” differently as ” on earth as in heaven.” It is simply about living a radical scandalous redemptive love to the point of self sacrifice.
It became apparent for me when Jesus is arrested by the Roman soldiers in the garden of Gethsemane, when Peter grabs the soldiers sword and cuts his ear off. Jesus tells Peter to put down the sword…and replaces and heals the soldiers ear. We will never convince the world to believe in Jesus by defending, and fighting about right belief. We will convince the world of Jesus when we are willing to put down our swords, and willing to sacrifice our lives…for Love.
I “NO” longer care or focus on what I believe…I only care about how I believe…how that might change my neighborhood, and world…and how it will reveal Jesus and his kingdom.
Posted by ron cole on September 04, 2012 at 03:51 PM in devotional reflection, emerging church, faith, jesus, kingdom, mystery, philosophy, postmodernity, progressive christianity, spirituality, theology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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This is one of my favorite stories is the gospels ( John 6:1-15 ), everytime I read it, it is like a sun rise that slowly and mysteriously illuminates the landscape of reality to endless possibilities.
It continuosly breaks the illusion that God is restricted to borders...that he graviates to those he likes. As Jesus reminds us in Matthew 5:45, " In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike." Suddenly there is a profound redemptive spark that ignites the imagination...like the sun, and the rain, God orbits humanity and permeates everything.
It's interesting that Tiberias is a jewish community but it is permeated and surrounded by a heterogenous population. In the days of Jesus many more religious Jews refused to settle there because the presence of a cemetery rendered the place unclean. Herod settled many non-Jews from rural Galilee and other parts of his domains to populate his new capital, and built a palace on the acropolis, " city on the extremity." Here Jesus finds himself in a collage, a landscape of diversity...of faiths, of cultures, of race and langauge. His presence embraces every inch of this human landscape.
Also the teller of this story reminds us that it is nearly time for the Feast of the Passover. Again, my mind, my memory and imagination rewind to that incredible journey into freedom. It again was centered around a meal that would sustain God's people across a threshold, through a doorway into a journey where the horizon was filled with the hope of new possibilities. The God-man must have been acutely aware of this reality as waded through and was surrounded in this sea of humanity.
This diverse mass of people has seen, and heard the word " miracle "...that more than anything it has been the magnet that pulls, and gravitates them toward Jesus. They want to see Jesus perform some God-tricks...and the crowd gets bigger, and bigger. The day is coming to a close, the shadows are getting longer as the creator pulls the curtain, and light dims.
Jesus is profoundly aware of the moment and in it he sees the fullness of humanity...he sees the intersection of humanity and God. He more than anyone knows of the mysterious profound redemptive possibilities that can be found when the two interact and become one...he more than anything is proof of that reality.
Jesus lights a match, trying spark some human imagination asking Philip, " Where can he buy bread to feed these people?" Immediately Philip is doing some calculations in his mind, counting on his fingers and finally coming to the conclusion, " we don't have enough money." Not the best answer, but at least he's absolved himself, and the disciples of any responsibility.
There is a yound boy in the crowd with his bag lunch of five small loaves and two fish that he sees as a possibility. But, like a flickering candle about to go out, Simon readily admits it doesn't offer much hope.
Jesus seats everyone on the ground and takes the bread, giving thanks passes it into the midst of the people. He does the same with the fish, and everyone ate as much as they wanted. When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted." They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.
To often in this story we want to fast forward, and hit stop...satisfied with the obvious conclusion it's " all " Jesus performing some kind of God-magic in a miracle. Now, I'm not saying Jesus can't, and didn't do miracles. I'm saying maybe in the profound redemptive imagination of Jesus he doesn't want us to stop there. Maybe there is another kind of miracle going on...a kind of God-man collaborated miracle. Maybe it's that profound interesction when God and humanity merge as one, and in the fusion something heaven-on-earth shattering happens.
The young boy in this story ignites the redemptive imagination in my mind to a new generation that is not just on the fringe. But that they " get " Jesus and are close to him. They understand that Jesus was deeply and fully human more than he was religious. It's profound that the disciples didn't really grasp what was going on. But here is this young boy hovering close to Jesus saying here is my bag lunch...its not much, but I'm willing to share it.
Can you imagine the look on the disciples faces, " Are you serious kid...there is 5,000 or more people out there." That would be like sharing a " Happy Meal " with a small town. But more than that the young boy doesn't just want to share it with his family, his friends, his tribe or even his faith. He wants to share it with everyone..." you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike."
It is that profound mysterious intersection...if God is like that, humanity should be like that. It is when we live like that miracles are possible...heaven comes to earth, they become one.
So could it be possible someone saw this young boy pass his meager bag lunch to Jesus, and whisper started through the crowd, and the whisper became a wind, like spirit touch everyone. Slowly people searched their packs, and there pockets, and everyone regardless of race, and religion started to share with one another.
It is that profound mysterious intersection...if God is like that, humanity should be like that. It is when we live like that miracles are possible...heaven comes to earth, they become one.
I bumped into a friend a couple of months ago down town, a churchless follower of Jesus. He shared that he had went to Gurdwara at a Sikh temple in town. A part of the worship involved a meal in this large kitchen room. It is a meal where all are welcome regardless of faiths...it is here evryone sits together and shares a common meal. This profound act of worship is said to enable people to serve one another, and to banish all distinctions between people...its the profound mysterious realization in the midst of God's presence there is no circumference...everyone is in.
More than every we must re-kindle redemptive imagination...and come to the profound truth there are many paths to God. But real faith is found in the intersection of humanity and God. Jesus the God-man came to reveal this to us...this is what is is to be fully human. And I believe it's in this intersection in our unique and diverse religions, and beyond our religions that miracles can happen today to change the course of humanity.
I dream there is a generation of young people that are like the young boy in this gospel story that will lead us into a new journey of faith beyond mere religion but into the fullness of humanity that Jesus lived and spoke about.
This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed non-conformists. The saving of our world from pending doom will come not from the actions of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a dedicated minority. (Martin Luther King )
Posted by ron cole on August 14, 2012 at 08:50 AM in community, culture, Current Affairs, devotional reflection, emerging church, faith, gobal community, jesus, kingdom, missional church, mystery, philosophy, postmodernity, progressive christianity, Religion, theology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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It's hard to imagine anyone coming across Jesus in the midst of the " world crisis " of his day thinking that Jesus was about reforming religion; maybe some institutional changes, a revamp of the worship style...more culturally relevant. They would have seen the tide changing, an uprising on the margins of an empire. It was simply a revolution.
Fast forward to today. Empire is still with us, and continues to spin a story of illusion, one of prosperity, security and hope. The empire parades through the streets of the the global village proclaiming capitalism and globalization are still the way forward. Through it's corporate icons, it's incomprehensible economics, it's military power and it's controlled media...a dumbed down world has been fooled.
Mass protests, throughout history have come at a time when enough of the population has been affected by policies of the rulers and elite. They have often been met with brutal, efficient crackdown by the guardians of the elite...as was the case in Jesus day. It was an empire with a global plan to expand it's borders, it's wealth and power...whatever the costs. Also, a religion, a faith community that collaborated with the empire...or at best washed its hands and turned a blind eye.
This was the situation in Jesus day, and certainly even more magnified and amplified today. If you want to get a grasp of what is going on in the world from social, political, economic and environmental issues that effect us " all "...I encourage you to browse " Global Issues."
Jesus, the God-man being birthed into the margins of humanity has always mystified me. We are so fixated with religion as a navigation tool to get from " us " to God. We all have our maps, and compasses and charted our bearings and declared " our " route the only way. But God, in a sense seems to ignore all paths and births the God-man of the grid. Jesus strangely is birthed outside of is own religion. God births the God-man in the humus of humanity...in the midst of the poverty, the injustice, the brokenness...in the midst of the unloved.
I wonder if God didn't birth himself outside of religion to show us that it really isn't that important? Maybe religion says more about us than God? Maybe we view Jesus like some helium filled balloon, that the more lines we have anchored to him, the less of a chance he'll drift off to non-existence. Maybe God won't allow himself to be owned like a piece of property by " any " religion? Maybe that is one of the most profound realities of the incarnation is that God puts himself into the midst of " humanity " not a religion.
Process theologian John B Cobb made this comment recently, " We become devoted to Christianity instead of Jesus. Jesus taught us to be faithful to Christianity is found no where in the Bible." And Bono reminds us, " God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house...God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them."
We know where Jesus planted his life, and throughout the gospels we see Jesus not promoting, trying indoctrinate people into a religion...we see him revealing what it is to be fully human. We see Jesus bringing a new world to life, an alternative, subversive world that stands in stark contrast to the world of the empire. And around us today we see a church that continues to to sink into absolute irrelevance.
" In many churches today, the primary question being asked is, how do we get more members? Behind this is often a painful awareness of the patterns of institutional decline and the need for more bodies and buck's in the pews to sustain things. This is not the primary question we should be asking. Instead, we should be wondering, what is God up to in our neighborhood? How do we join up with it?" ( Dwight. J Zscheile )
God is not concerned about sustaining christianity, ensuring you have someplace to go on Sunday mornings. God is concerned about sustaining life...about redeeming the brokenness of the world around us into this new creation, this alternative world...where justice reigns; where oppression ends, where there is universal health care for all; where there is no hunger; where religion embraces " all " humanity...not the god's we've created; where we become stewards of the earth and it's resources again, where we truly love our neighbor...and where there is no more "us" and "them", but where we live life as one.
Christianity continues to decline in the west depite trying to make it more culturally relevant, putting a new coat of paint on the surface...people are still trickling out the back door. It's not that we've lost faith in Jesus...we've lost faith in the church. We are consumed with the idea that worship pleases God, if we can just get it right...sing the right things, say the right things, we'll turn it around. People will be pounding at our doors to get in.
Today, to say, we stand in the midst of a crisis is an understatement...maybe it's time to awaken to the reality that God doesn't care about our religion, this Christianity that resembles so little of Jesus, and imagines so little of this profound redemptive alternative world he spoke about and lived in. It is time for a revolutionary Christianity that gets beyond faith in beliefs, but to risk faith on life. Jesus came that we might have abundant life...not just for church folk, nice behaving Christians...but for all humanity. It was about a faith that changed the world, literally to build a new creation. Jesus challenged the worldly empire of the day it's lie, its narrative of prosperity, and security and false hope for the deserving...he was constantly in there face telling a profoundly more redemptive story for everyone. But more than that he was willing to set aside religion this obsession of trying to turn ourselves into pious self-righteous gods...to just be more fully human.
God is out there in the brokenness, in the midst of the oppression, injustice and poverty in the global village...this is where revolutionary faith begins. Jesus was birthed, lived and died in this place. It is only here that the reality of any new kind of creation can take place. Jesus didn't come to start a new religion...he came to bring heaven to earth now. He came to start a revolution, to turn the world " right " side up...where a new alternative world would capture the imagination of " all " humanity.
" For the revolutionary, those goals and objectives are directed toward changing reality and toward redemption of humanity. It is humanity itself, ones fellow human being, the redemption of ones fellow human being that constitutes the revolutionary's objective. If we revolutionaries are asked what matters to us most, we will say: the people, and we will always say the people. People in their true sense, that is, the majority of those who have had to live under exploitation and the cruelest neglect. Our fundamental concern will always be with the great majority of the people, the oppressed and exploited classes. We view evrything from this standpoint: Whatever is good for them is good for us; whatever noble, useful and beautiful for them , will be noble, useful and beautiful for us. If one does not think in this manner, if one does not think of the people and for the people, if one does not think and act for the great exploited mass of the people, for the great masses we seek to redeem, then one simply does not have a revolutionary attitude." ( Fidel Castro: Words To Intellectuals, Havana June 30 1961 )
" By breaking the rules of the game, he has disrupted the game as such, he has exposed it as a mere game. he has shattered the world of appearances, the fundamental pillar of the system. He has upset the power structure by tearing apart what holds it together. He has demonstrated that living a lie is living a lie. He has broken through the exalted facade of the system and exposed the real, base foundations of power. He has said that the emperor is naked. And because the the emperor is infact naked, something extremely dangerous has happened; by his action, the greengrocer has addressed the world, He has enabled everyone to peer behind the curtain. He has shown everyone that it is possible to live within the truth. Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal. The principle must embrace and permeate everything. There are no terms whatsoever on which it can coexist wuth living within the truth, and therefore everyone who steps out of the line denies it in principle and threatens it in its entirety." ( Vaclav Havel: The Power of the Powerless 1936 )
Christianity will not save the world...living into Jesus as the way, the truth and the life...of what it is to be fully human...should spark the imagination of all humanity to where we look for hope on the horizon of history.
" They went first. We are next. The indifference we showed to the plight of the underclass, in Biblical terms our 'neighbor', haunts us. We failed them, and in doing so we failed ourselves. We were accomplices in our own demise. Revolt is all we have left. It is the only hope."
The revolutionary faith of Jesus is all we have left...his way, his truth and his life. A faith beyond belief...a faith profoundly and humanly lived. It really is our only hope.
Posted by ron cole on August 10, 2012 at 08:57 AM in church, consumerism, consumption, culture, economic crisis, emerging church, environment, global warming, gobal community, jesus, kingdom, missional church, postmodernity, progressive christianity, spirituality, survival, theology, world health | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Many would say I've back slid; my compass is broken and I aimlessly heading off the edge of a cliff. But those close to me, my friends understand...I hope. That this has been a long process, at least 15 years...the last 5, immersing myself into the depths of the redemptive imagination and life of Jesus in the gospels. I will no longer be restricted by "christianity " in my pursuit of Jesus. I don't think he would restrict himself to "christianity", I think Jesus is bigger than any religion, and can't be contained by their barriers. I am more passionate than ever about Jesus, my faith has never felt more alive. I don't expect you understand...be patient. I'm free...and believe it or not, following Jesus.
Scarey stuff for sure. Many of my past church friends won't get this at all, your either in our your...out. Many would simply say I have left the faith. I would simply say I've left the church building, and navigating outside the barriers of Christianity. But it has taken 15 years to get here...it was an arduous journey of reading, reflection, conversations, prayer...and living. It was really about coming to terms of what faith is.
The big question...does Jesus occupy such a liminal place, where one is not anchored to much bobbing in this sea of questions. Fifteen years ago I would have said " no ", I would have been in the shallow end of the pool wearing a life jacket, and with in arms reach of the life guard at all times.
If any thing after reading nothing but the gospels for 5 years ( believe me my good friend Bill Dahl has listened to my musings for as long )...you can't reduce the gospels into a concrete block of theology. It's like this messy primordial mysterious ooze. Try as you might to shape into certitude, it squirts, and oozes through your fingers...the answer you thought you had is gone.
Something that really became clear was that Christianity's concern is the " church ", where as Jesus concern is the " Kingdom of God." And it also becomes apparent that there are clear solid lines as to who's in the church, and a lot less clearly defined lines as to who is in the Kingdom.
The challenge of the gospels is it's filled with paradox...one moment you think you've got the right answer squeezed tightly in your grasp only to open you hand and see it's vanished. Jesus, the God-man who could give an immutable answer doesn't. He tells these profound mysterious parables, stories, riddles...he lobbs them into the crowd like a grenade that has had the pin pulled. He, in many cases offers no answer. The crowd is left to try and defuse it.
In this search, this defusing of the parable they are drawn into a liminal space...where it is just them and God. And in this frantic search to find certitude to defuse... the only thing to be found is the mysterious redemptive power beyond human imagination called grace. The gospels are filled, over flowing with the stuff.
For the longest time " in " the church, I knew exactly who was "in" and who was "out". There were strict guide lines. Everyone had to believe certain doctrines, a statement of faith; behave a certain way...and you belonged. But the guidelines for who is "in" the Kingdom have been blown apart much like the crowd wrestling with the parables. The lines of the church were much like its walls, solid, fortified and impermeable. But there seems to be no lines fortifying the Kingdom, just this permeable redemptive membrane called grace...where we become profoundly surprised...or shocked by what can leak in.
I am the Good Shepherd and know and recognize my own, and my own know and recognize me. Even as truly as the Father knows me and I also know the Father...and I am giving my very own life and laying it down on behalf of the sheep.
And I have other sheep besides these that are not in this fold. I must bring and inspire those also, and they will listen to my voice and heed my call, and so there will be, and they will become one flock under one sheperd. ( paraphrase John 10:14-16 )
This is one of those stories that we want to read with our "church" default mindset...the certitude of knowing exactly who's "in." It's like were hanging on to our answer; dangling, grasping two fisted...and God cuts the rope.
WTF!!!...or what the flock is going on here? " I have other sheep besides these that are not in this fold. I must bring and inspire those also, and they will listen to my voice and heed my call." What kind of flock is this?
We know historically there were other faiths, and religions in the midst of the culture of Jesus day. So is this talking about some kind of conversion to " Christianity "? Remember at this point there wasn't any, and Jesus passion was the redemptive imagination and reality of the Kingdom...now, in our midst...among us. It's obvious there are other sheep that belong ( I have ), and they listen to his voice and heed his call. And Jesus is not forcing, trying to convert the sheep from different folds to change shepheds...he's asking his disciples to inspire, to maybe recognize that the God they have come to know through Jesus...is also the God of others.
Now, am I saying all religions premeate across the membrane into the Kingdom of God...I don't know? But I wonder if there might be sheep within those folds...that belong in Jesus flock?
Jesus says, " Who ever has seen me has seen the Father ", that the invisible God has been made visible in his life. It's like Jesus is say, " Hey, if you want to see what God is like, look at me; my life, my way, my deeds, my character...my truth.
Maybe, the other sheep have heard Jesus voice and heeded to his call, and are living...the way, the truth, and the life. Maybe our problem is we want to treat the Kingdom like church...where we have this tribal, exclusive, elistist view of God...where we have wire attached to our beliefs, our doctrines that prevent anyone from getting in but those that believe like us. Maybe the Jesus, of the Kingdom of God is more profound, more gracious...than the Jesus of the church.
Stories like the Good Samaritan...an other sheep besides these that are in the fold, that have heeded Jesus call. A person of another religion profoundly living...the way, the truth and the life of Jesus. He may not be in the "church ", but, mysteriously, I think he might be in the Kingdom of God.
And again, Matthew 25, and the thief on the cross all challenge are perception of what Jesus' flock may actually look like.
Brian McLaren says this about the Kingdom of God, and I wonder if Jesus does not look across this vast herd of sheep and think the same thing as to who get's in...
" it will not involve God ( please pardon the crudeness of this ) pulling down our pants and check for circumcision or scanning our brains for certain beliefs like products being scanned at the grocery checkout. No, God will examine the story of lives for signs of Christlikeness...for a cup of cols water, a plate of hot food given to one in need, for an atom of mercy shown to one who has been unkind or unthoughtful, or a visit to a prisoner or an open door and a warm bed for a stranger, for a generous impulse indulged and a hurtful one denied, like Jesus." ( A New Kind of Christianity; page 204 )
Will there be other faiths, other religions besides just Christians in the Kingdom of God...I don't know for sure. But the redemptive imagination that fills my mind explodes with excitement at the possibility.
I have seen that it is possible to be a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Christian, a Hindu or an atheist and carry the cross. The words are different but the self-sacrifice and thirst for justice are the same. And these men and women, who may not profess what I profess or believe what I believe, are my brothers and sisters. And I stand with them honoring and respecting our differences and finding hope and strength and love in our common commitment. ( Chris Hedges )
“Never be content with your current grasp of the gospel. The gospel is the life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth. It has more facets than a diamond. It's depths man will never exhaust.” ( CJ Mahaney )
Posted by ron cole on July 31, 2012 at 02:54 AM in church, culture, Current Affairs, devotional reflection, emerging church, faith, gobal community, jesus, kingdom, mystery, postmodernity, progressive christianity, spirituality, theology | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
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What makes you part of the Christian " in-crowd ", or what makes you a follower of Jesus? Does it come down to " right answers "
I guess what I struggle with within this recognized and defined boundaries of orthodoxy is the implication of separation...inclusion and exclusion. Jesus and his friends come to the cross roads, "Caesarea Philippi", this would be the cultural intersection of their day. A cross roads plurality...language, cultures, religions. Really not much different from the intersection we find ourselves today. It's here, Jesus poses the questions, " who do the people say I am?", and, " who do you say I am?"
I really have a problem discerning whether this was a mid-term exam in the midst of their journey. And if it was a one question exam, " all or nothing "...there was nothing that acknowledged the inevitable outcome of separation.
Peter did do the class well making the right answer, with Jesus saying, " You didn't get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I'm going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out. "
Important to note, there was no comment by Jesus that the other 11 had failed, that they should pack up their school supplies and head home. They were still invited to continue the journey.
Interesting, the disciples had all been attending the same lectures, teaching, all seen the same miracles, but one out of 12 gets the right answer. Put this on a Bell Curve, and it wouldn't be hard to draw the conclusion the teacher is not getting the desired point across...or he's got the top dozen from the Darwin Awards.
It's obvious the Holy Spirit had a huge part to play in Peter's answer...my Father in heaven, God himself let you in on the answer. Peter's orthodox statement was a process, something he grew into...and something which grew into him.
No doubt, it had to be a bit of a let down for Jesus...teaching and wisdom that left people with there mouths open speechless, feeding the 5,000, walking on water while the boys sailed across the lake, giving site to the blind...and they couldn't see who he was.
Orthodoxy, yes we need it, we need anchor points into which to tie our faith into...but to the point of separation, exclusion...those in and those out. I'm not so sure.
I really believe once the disciples decided to follow, dropping their nets, tax account books, medical bag...they were " in ". It's a journey...of wrong answers sometimes; sometimes correct answers; of falling down and getting up; sometimes on the narrow path; sometimes on the highway; sometimes a saint; sometimes a sinner; sometimes like Peter, Jesus is my Lord ; and sometimes like Peter, I deny Jesus...but it's a journey in which I continue stumble on.
Bruxy Cavey, talks about a young woman in his church that had been in the community for a while that had been gravitating towards Jesus. It's like she was orbiting around this profound God-man, Jesus. She wasn't really sure, couldn't really declare belief in alot of the faith statements around Jesus...but there she was orbiting. Even communion, she came to the table, broke bread, drank the wine...she felt she belonged. Bruxy felt comfortable enough to let her lead a home group, wrestling with scripture among friends. There was absolutely no pressure to get her to declare belief, to have answers. Maybe, just maybe there is something far more profound in the " following " and in the coerced belief.
I believe in the context of a faith community, a group of followers...we can grow into far more orthodoxy...and an orthodoxy beyond mere doctrinal statements. But an orthodoxy that comes from relentlessly following of Jesus despite your failures, and whether or not you come up with any answers...when your Father in heaven, God speaks to you, gives you the answer to who Jesus really is.
We can make people declare belief in our religious frame work, our theology, our rules, our doctrine and dogama...to be in our church. But the reality is, even if they have said nothing but are clumsily staggering, following, orbiting around Jesus...they're " in." This, " who do you say I am " is not an exam, pages of religious questions where you have to acheive a certain number of correct answers to pass. This sounds crazy, but we can't give anyone the answer to that question...maybe it is as the Psalmist said, " when deep talks to deep "...a simple and profound all knowing.
Posted by ron cole on July 22, 2012 at 03:49 AM in devotional reflection, emerging church, faith, jesus, mystery, postmodernity, progressive christianity, spirituality, theology | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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Prophetic imagination, or prophetic dreaming, keeping visions alive, is what stimulates diverse groups forming society into becoming a culture of life, a biophilic, life-loving culture, to use an ecological term. It is also an authentic dimension of being and becoming Church. Together with the power of dangerous memory, these two activities are at the heart of a theology of hope. For prophetic imagination is outrageous—not merely in dreaming the dream, but in already living out of the dream before it has come to pass, and in embodying this dream in concrete actions.
Mary C Grey: The Outrageous Pursuit of Hope
Some say it is the end of Christendom, that the vessel we call " church " has been taking on water for years, and despite our attempts to bail and keep her afloat, she is sinking and being consumed by the world and culture she floats in.
I could make a list of the self-help projects we've done, and are still doing to make church attractive...but, I wonder. Have we as faith communities lost our power of dangerous memory. We've lost the reality, that our story is mysteriously weaved in the lines and between the lines of God's story. Somehow there is a disconnect, a radical editing, writing our own stories...more like a reality TV show as we fumble from episode. But it need not be that way.
How many churches spend time in the words of the Old Testament prophets? It's there we find our dangerous memory. It is dangerous because it always involved change, and because we have so much invested in the old way of life.
As faith communities we tend to live inside our comfort zones. We put our trust in what we've built, even sacred things like our faith communities. I'm not saying church is bad, I'm saying when we live in dangerous memory, we dream and live the prophetic and redemptive imagination of God. Ironically when Jesus first calls his disciples it wasn't away of something bad. They were probably family guys try to make an honest living. But Jesus calls them into the redemptive imagination of God's Kingdom.
So we return to the words of the prophet. Ultimately the prophet could be called God's decontructionists. So if we think about decontructing church, it might be wise to return to the dangerous memory of the prophets words. They had the uncanny ability to stand above the faith communities time line and see its past, present and future. Through the imagination of God, like radical street poets there words creatively revealed the communities life in the stories of the past, the darkness of the present, and the glory of a yet to be lived future. It leads the community into repentance, redirection, reconstruction...to let go of fear and find grace...and return.
"The Lord is exalted", proclaims Isaiah. " He dwells on high; he filled Zion with justice and righteousness." ( 33:5 )
" I am the Lord " announces Jeremiah in the name of God. " I act with steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight." ( 9:24 )
Again Isaiah, " Is such the fast I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and lie is a sack cloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this fast that I choose; to break the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? ( 58:5-7 )
From Micah, " He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. ( 6:6-8 )
Lastly from Amos, " I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. ( 5:21-24 )
More than ever faith communities need to recover their dangerous memory, reboot the hard drive and go back to the prophetic imagination of God. We can continue the crazy reality TV show of deconstruct and reconstruct, change for the sake of change...religion for religion's sake.
Recovering our dangerous memory will always lead us to the hope and reality of God's Kingdom. We become his people, heirs, the community that dreams and reveals, redeems, restores...and builds His kingdom on earth now.
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